29 October 2012
Mike Pigott looks at this small but accurate range of military trucks produced by Trax of Australia. ...
In 1937, with the threat of war looming, the British government asked Canada to develop a range of military multi-purpose trucks. The result was the Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) lorry, which was designed by Ford of Canada, although they were also produced by Chevrolet. When war broke out, Canada went into full production of CMP lorries, and over 400,000 of them were shipped to allied armies in battle zones around the world. Hundreds of thousands more were built or assembled in other Commonwealth countries.
CMP trucks were tough, reliable and were easy to transport. They were built with a number of different military body styles, including open lorries, tankers, recovery vehicles, personnel carriers and radio trucks, in 4x4 and 6x4 drive configurations. There were also armoured versions that looked significantly different.
The CMP lorries gave outstanding service in several theatres of the war, and afterwards thousands were sold off as army surplus. They were eagerly sought after in a world starved of new vehicles, and many found new lives as civilian trucks. They were used for a range of duties, most commonly as fire engines, tow trucks and forestry trucks, where the 4wd was most useful, but they were also put into service as haulage trucks, cranes and on farms and circuses. Very common sights in France and the Netherlands, as well as in Australia (where the CMP truck was always referred to as the Chevrolet Blitz), these rugged vehicles lasted in service for decades.
The Trax company of Sydney, Australia, largely specialised in 1/43 scale models of local cars, such as Holdens, Ford Falcons and Chrysler Valiants. However, in 2002 the company entered the commercial vehicle market, with a sub-series called Trux. The first Trux models were 1/76 buses, which proved remarkable popular, followed by a small range of 1/64 semi-trailers. In 2005, the first 1/50 truck was produced, a Chevrolet Blitz (CMP) fire tanker.
After the war, many army surplus CMP lorries were modified as fire tankers, and these formed the backbone of many rural fire brigades in Australia well into the 1970s. The Trux model was extremely accurate, capturing the snub nose and reverse-rake windscreen of the real truck very well. It was a flatbed truck with a large water tank mounted on the back, and included side guard rails, hose reel, pump and jerry cans. A spare tyre and tool box were mounted behind the cab, which featured a photo-etched grille and a pair of horns on the roof. Only the cab and chassis were diecast, with the rest being all plastic, but it was still an impressive model. It was, of course, finished in red, and had the markings of a generic ‘Bush Fire Brigade No 1’ printed on the doors.
Trax also produced a special ‘Charity Edition’ of this model. It featured the same markings, but had ‘muddy’ tyres, and came in a presentation box with a bushfire backdrop and a pair of fireman figures. The idea was that these could be ordered by rural fire brigades and sold to raise funds, but there seems to have been a very poor response to this, and most of the 10,000 charity models did not sell. As a result, these were sold off at a reduced price on the Trax website.
The second version of the CMP was in its original form, as a long wheelbase military dropside lorry with canopy. This type of lorry had been used by the Australian Army 6th Division, which saw action in Greece, the Middle East and New Guinea. The Trux model was significantly modified, with a diecast open back and a removable tilt in thick plastic. The canopy was very well detailed, with a realistic texture and featured a number of imitation tie ropes coming through ‘eyelets’. It was painted in a camouflage pattern of green, khaki and olive drab, and had the division’s ‘kangaroo and boomerang’ insignia on the front bumper.
Unfortunately, the Blitz Wagon was not a strong seller for Trax, and plans for a third 1/50 CMP model, a tow truck, were put on indefinite hold. Despite slow sales, the two models eventually sold out and are now quite hard to find on the second-hand market. As Trax is only available online, and is not well-known outside Australia, the models went under the radar of collectors in other countries such as Canada, where these trucks are still very highly regarded. Hopefully the people at Trax will reconsider and produce some more variations of this legendary workhorse.